In the latest of our blogs about the NHS, we’re focusing on a range of lone working roles across the organisation. Each of these groups of lone workers has specific characteristics which form the main risk areas associated with their role. Yet whoever the lone workers are in your NHS agency, Lone Worker Solutions can provide them with a full range of support using Safe Hub.
Each lone worker role needs a risk assessment
As a reminder, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.’ Under health and safety legislation, a lone worker’s employer has a legal responsibility to protect that worker. The first step to meeting this responsibility therefore will usually be a risk assessment for the role.
Such assessments should identify the types of risks which may attend the role. These might include physical assault, harassment, stalking, and theft of property or equipment. A key consideration is the working conditions for the role, such as shift patterns, or hazardous conditions including an isolated work place, or poor lighting and access. In some cases, a risk assessment may require that certain patients or service users are not seen by a lone worker, or are only seen at a neutral location or within a secure environment.
We’re going to take a closer look at three main types of roles, in descending order of risk. And we’ll also look at some of the features of Safe Hub, our lone worker protection system, which serve to minimise the impact of those risks.
Home visits: keeping lone workers safe, en route and on location
A common category is for people who work in direct contact with the public in a patient’s or service user’s own home. This includes district nurses, midwives and health visitors. Before visiting a location including the home of a patient or service user, lone workers must have up-to-date information of known risks. This may include such issues as whether there is an animal in the house, the individual’s behaviour (for instance, if there is drug or alcohol use), and the physical environment.
One key aspect of home visits which can represent the highest level of risk is travelling to a site visit – be that by public transport, by car, by taxi, or on foot. There are clearly risks associated with prescribers carrying prescription forms and medicines on their person, particularly controlled drugs. And this risk may be further heightened if a lone worker is wearing a uniform.
For a lone worker in a situation such as this, LWS has a range of support services available through Safe Hub. Our Red Alert feature provides emergency help, backed up by the information which lone workers can leave in a Yellow Alert message. Whether they’ve been in an accident or feel in danger, a lone worker merely has to push a button discreetly to summon emergency help via our Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). The Safe Check feature can also provide proactive support. It contacts the worker at pre-set intervals requesting an identity code to confirm that the individual is OK. If no response is received within an agreed timeframe, the system goes into alert mode and contacts the ARC to escalate the matter.
Out-of-hours services: lone workers dealing with the distressed
Another common category of roles is staff working shifts outside normal hours, even if they are in a central location such as a clinic or hospital. Such roles may include security guards as well as workers in accident and emergency departments. Here staff may be delivering unwelcome information or bad news, which can clearly put them at risk. Further, there may be situations where such staff have to deal with patients’ or service users’ alcohol or drug use, non-compliance in relation to their clinical condition, or poor response to treatment. And there may be issues about leaving the building alone at the end of a shift.
For workers in these situations, Red Alert and Safe Check may be appropriate. We also offer a reactive support service, Worker Down, which monitors the movement of the handset and its orientation. If the handset hasn’t moved for a length of time this could indicate that a lone worker requires emergency help, for example after a fall or incident.
Working remotely: lower-risk lone working, but not risk-free
Due to IT technology now available, NHS staff can undertake office work during normal daytime hours anywhere and at any time remotely. Working from home in an administrative function is clearly a lower-risk activity. However, risk assessments need to consider issues of location, timing relating to personal safety, and access to valuable organisational resources and patients care details. For office staff working remotely, it may be appropriate to use Safe Check as a periodic check that the worker is safe in their remote working environment.
Safe Hub helps lone workers to take safety seriously
Something that may be overlooked in risk assessments is the individual lone worker’s role in their own protection. Under the law, staff members have a responsibility to take reasonable care of themselves and to cooperate with their employer. This includes making full use of conflict resolution or personal safety training, and heeding instructions and advice from their line managers regarding lone working.
Most crucially, the individual must undertake training in the use of any equipment and technology. This extends to always remembering to keep lone worker devices fully charged and functional, be it a smartphone or a dedicated device. LWS excels in this area; we always offer extensive training and ongoing support for Safe Hub users.